Sunday 5 August 2012

The wedding gift

Minhi walked across to her husband’s desk. Shuvan, their boss, wanted to know when they would like to take leave.
“Is he joking?” Latik asked her, amused.
“No, he is serious,” she said.
They laughed. Shuvan and his naughty idea ... he was just too good.
When Minhi had lost her family, it was her job that kept her sane. Her colleagues got immersed in their respective roles once the usual rounds of condolence were over. Few noticed that she was losing weight. She was as quiet now as she had been bubbly before the tragedy had occurred.
The daily effort of going to work and coming back tired after wrestling for space in crowded buses left her with little energy to brood. She forced herself to cook and eat for enough strength to return to office the next morning.
This went on for days and weeks.
Shuvan has a naughty idea.
Digital sketch: Harjeet
Shuvan was the only one who made consistent efforts to reach out to her.
He was Minhi’s reporting senior. He would tease her about the meagre contents of her lunch box. At times he provoked her into retorting by unabashedly picking holes in her work. Then he waited till she accepted his apologies with a wan smile.
It was a particularly cold day when Shuvan advised her to step out into the sun. Soon he followed her outdoor, carrying two cups of steaming tea.
As she thanked him, he looked at her pallid face searchingly and asked: “Don’t you feel lonely?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“You could marry,” Shuvan suggested.
“Me? Who would marry me?” She looked stung, and turned to go.
“What if someone agreed?” That stopped her. “Would you trust me as one who has your well-being at heart? Would you let me broach the subject on your behalf with someone suitable?”
“You c-could,” she replied, and hurried back to her desk.
Three months later, Shuvan called Minhi out to the same spot. In the lawn stood Latik. He left them alone without uttering a word.
Latik had been stunned when Shuvan put the proposal to him.
They had worked together some years back. When he was made section head, Shuvan had asked that Latik be transferred here from his previous office.
Latik was smart, and quick on the uptake. Shuvan never had to repeat instructions or follow up with him. His commitment and dependability had endeared him to Shuvan, and they came to share a wonderful rapport.
His boss knew there was no woman in Latik’s household, and that it was quite a struggle for him to keep things going. Latik’s father had retired a few years back, and his only brother was still in college.
Shuvan asked him point blank if he had ever considered Minhi for a wife. Latik gave an honest answer. “She is a colleague, that is all.”
“You are both in need of good partners, so why not marry? Take your time and let me know.”
He had no doubt that Minhi would like Latik if she considered him in that light.
For a month or two, he bridled his impatience. It paid off. He noticed Latik’s eyes resting thoughtfully on Minhi’s face now and then. 
For her part, Minhi did not raise the subject with her boss again. Clearly, she had not considered his suggestion worth another thought.
Latik began making unobtrusive attempts to know her better. He would saunter past her desk and happen to be holding two cups of coffee or some snacks. Initially she gave him no quarter, refusing to entertain his polite offers. In a few days, though, her resistance wore thin. A comfort zone was quietly enveloping the two of them.
Latik soon drew Shuvan outside to tell him he would be very happy if Minhi agreed to marry him.
When the two of them stepped in from the lawn, Shuvan looked up anxiously. He was met with shy smiles.
“So it is settled,” he heaved a happy sigh of relief.
The couple got married shortly thereafter, but life was not that easy for very long.
“Sir, Latik is a wonderful husband. Thank you so much,” Minhi said to her boss one day. “But …”
“Don’t tell me there are ifs and buts already,” he smiled.
“My father-in-law …,” her voice trailed off.
“What’s wrong?” Shuvan was all concern.
“He is highly irritable, querulous. Haven’t you noticed how often Latik or I have had to take leave unannounced? Because suddenly he will stipulate that he will have only chicken for lunch, or he will throw a tantrum. Sometimes he will insist on visiting the doctor. And always just as we are leaving for office. Latik says he’s got more wayward since our marriage,” she told him.
“And what does Latik have to say?” he asked.
“He has been bullied for so long that he just cannot handle his father any more,” she replied.
“I am sorry about this, sorry that I got you into this,” but Minhi interrupted him: “Latik is truly worth his weight in gold. I have no complaint on that score, sir.”
“It’s just that we get no time together, no private moments whatsoever. My father-in-law is forever demanding one thing or another. He even grudges us an evening walk,” she added.
Shuvan stroked his bald pate as he contemplated the situation. This seemed to be an extreme case of a lonely old man seeking attention.
He would think of a solution over the weekend, he assured her.
On Monday, he told the pair he had a naughty idea: that they go on vacation on the pretext of official work. “Since you are in the same office, it is not difficult to pretend you are being sent together on a tour. Wanting some privacy is no crime. Just don’t give too much advance notice at home or you could find your plan pre-empted. That’s it.”
So here they were then, giggling like school kids playing truant as they checked out the calendar for suitable dates. They had to be sure Latik’s brother would be available at home when the two of them were away.
Luckily, the university would be closing for the autumn break in two weeks.
“This may seem like a conspiracy, but so be it,” Shuvan told the jittery couple. “Decide on a destination. Book your train seats and a hotel room, and keep your travel allowance forms ready. The day you are back, submit them, and I’ll arrange for quick reimbursement so that your finances are not unduly upset.”
They began to thank him, but he cut them short. His voice trembled a bit: “I have my own liabilities and cannot afford to give you anything substantial. But this at least is within my power. Consider it a humble wedding gift.”
He winked at Latik: “Honeymoon finally, eh? Stay in a posh hotel. Your wife deserves it. Your joint allowance will be more than enough, I am sure.”


  1. a sweet story... :)

  2. damn... if this was an option i would tried harder to search for husband in the same office... destination would have been some place exotic, of course! :-P

  3. Why do you think your options are over? another day, another office... just keep your eyes skinned! All the best, dear.